A blog post

Books, comments: Japan tragedy and gender equality

Posted on the 25 March, 2011 at 9:00 pm Written by in Books, Comments

In my March 15 blog post on the Japan catastrophe – earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout – I commented that the problems are also due to lacking gender equality. What does that mean?

We might start by considering plant eaters and meat eaters (Japanese terms), or soft and strong men (Norwegian terms), democracy and authoritarianism.

Historically, Japan managed to adapt successfully to Western imperialism only by regenerating authoritarian tendencies, leading to the axis power alliance and imperialism in World War II.  Lack of attention to gender equality was part of the limited development of democracy in post-war Japan.

Women were not much present, it seems, in Japanese decisions leading to the lacking defence against the three main parts of the catastrophe (earthquake, tsunami, nuclear). The basic issue is not just gender balance, but gender interest balance. It is the reproductive sphere that is hurt, mainly, by the damages in today’s Japan, although production is diminished too.  The main victim is civil society and human lives.

Perhaps Japan needs an ideas and behaviours revolution, learning from Egypt and Tunis, extending democracy peacefully? Japan needs to move beyond its authoritarian inheritance and conformism, leading e g to the ignorance of the warnings from outspoken researchers like the seismologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko.

In many countries of the world, new and old roles for men are in opposition, a change behind the scenes. In Japan, it has been called a struggle between “plant eaters” and “meat eaters”, in Norway, a struggle between “soft” and “hard” men. All over the world, there is a need for change, and also, for using tradition, for making use of the stability of culture, but  no longer for authority, for democracy instead.